Basic kitchen tools

basics

Some home cooks have a gadget to suit every function; from ice cream machines to espresso makers, there's a fancy tool to make anything! But a well-stocked kitchen can have surprisingly few tools. Here are some we think are essential:

Can opener
A kitchen necessity, used to open cans of all sizes, from tuna to tomatoes.
Corkscrew
A tool used to withdraw corks from bottles. A standard "waiter's" corkscrew opens both wine and beer bottles.
Citrus press/juicer
Squeeze juice from lemons and limes. PCC carries a simple wood reamer that fits in your hand, and larger citrus juicers with built in reservoirs and easy-pour spouts.
Colander
Used for draining liquid from solids, a colander is perforated and bowl-shaped. Use it to rinse berries or other fruits and vegetables, or to drain pasta. New varieties include collapsible designs which require less storage space.
Cutting board
Though it has long been thought that plastic boards were safer than wooden with respect to food-poisoning bacteria, that theory has now been discredited — wood cutting boards are perfectly safe. Just be sure to use one board for vegetables and another for meats. Always use hot water and detergent to thoroughly scrub a cutting board after each use. Plastic boards may be cleaned in the dishwasher. PCC carries sustainably-grown bamboo cutting boards and thin, flexible plastic cutting boards.
Frying pan or sauté pan
Also called a skillet, a frying pan is long-handled, usually round pan that has low, gently sloping sides so steam doesn't collect within the pan. It's used for frying foods over high heat, so it should be thick enough not to warp and should be able to conduct heat evenly. Buy one in cast iron, which is efficient for absorbing and retaining heat. A sauté pan is wide with straight or slightly curved sides that are generally a little higher than those of a frying pan and it works to efficiently brown and cook meats and a variety of other foods.
Grater
Graters, which come in several shapes, are used to shred, shave, dust and zest. PCC carries several varieties, including dual sided graters, spice graters, and citrus zesters.
Kitchen shears
Kitchen shears are handy for virtually any cutting task in the kitchen - from snipping open a bag to slicing food and fresh herbs. Be sure to wash them after each different use.
Knives
  • Chef's knife
    A chef's knife is usually the largest knife in the kitchen, with a wide blade that is 8 to 10 inches long. Choose a knife that feels good and balanced in your hand. The knife should have a full tang. This means that the blade should go all the way through the handle for the best wear and stability.
  • Paring knife
    Paring knives are generally 2 1/2 to 4 inches in length. This is the most often used knife in the kitchen. It is ideal for peeling and coring fruits and vegetables, cutting small objects, slicing, and other hand tasks.
  • Bread knife
    Bread knives are usually serrated. Most experts recommend a serrated knife that has pointed serrations instead of wavy serrations for better control and longer knife life. You must use a sawing motion when using a serrated knife.
Ladle
Use this tool to serve soups and stews.
Measuring cups
Make sure to have measuring cups for both dry and wet ingredients. Some measuring cups serve as both measurers and mixers (you can whisk and beat inside the cups!)
Measuring spoons
For precise measurements of baking powder, baking soda, spices or other small-quantity ingredients.
Microplane
A narrow hand-held grater that grates even the hardest cheeses into fine wisps. It also zests citrus and grates garlic and nutmeg.
Mixing bowls
Choices include a variety of sizes, in stainless steel or glass.
Peppermill
Freshly-ground pepper is far superior to pre-ground, just crack some over a salad or into a pot of lentil soup.
Potato masher
Mash potatoes, yams and other soft foods. PCC carries stainless steel mashers.
Salad spinner
Place washed lettuce leaves or fresh herbs in the inner basket, then spin them dry.
Saucepan
Round with a relatively long handle and a tight-fitting lid, the versatile saucepan has a multitude of uses including making soups and sauces, boiling vegetables and other foods, braising and even sautéing. Saucepans come in sizes ranging from 1 pint to 4 quarts. They are made from various materials including ceramic, copper, enameled cast iron or steel, glass and stainless steel.
Slotted spoon
A tool with a long handle and a large spoon with holes which let liquid pass through while preserving the larger solids on top. Use it to retrieve items like pasta or beans from a cooking liquid.
Spatula
A flattish, rather flexible kitchen utensil, a spatula can be used for a wide range of kitchen tasks - scraping the sides of pots, flipping foods (such as pancakes), even stirring or folding mixtures together. PCC carries several brands of spatulas including heat-tolerant silicone varieties.
Stockpot
A tall, broad pot with a tight-fitting lid, a stockpot is perfect for cooking soups, boiling pasta, and more. PCC carries stockpots from the French cookware company Le Creuset in selected stores.
Thermometer
Find one that is easy-to-read and shatterproof.
Timer
To make sure you don't over- or undercook!
Tongs
Use for turning meats or vegetables in a skillet, or to grip salad to dish it onto a plate. Bamboo tongs are good for turning or tossing lightweight food items, and metal tongs are best for high heat or heavier foods.
Whisk
Also called a whip, whisks are used for whipping ingredients (such as cream, eggs, sauces, etc.), thereby incorporating air into them. PCC carries sturdy stainless steel whisks.
Vegetable peeler
Use it to peel away the outer skin of fruits and vegetables such as mangos and butternut squash. PCC carries several varieties of peelers, including the all-purpose palm peelers that sit in your palm; peelers for special julienne cuts; citrus peelers, peelers for soft-skinned fruits, and more!

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